Janice L. Ristock and Catherine G. Taylor, eds.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998; 365 pp.
Reviewed by Janice Andreae
Janice Ristock and Catherine Taylor's anthology, Inside the Academy and Out, emerged from the editors' conversations about their work on pedagogy and research. Despite different contexts, they struggled with questions about how to represent identity without essentializing it and how to reconcile the subversive, discursive strategies of queer theory with those motivated by the social activism of lesbian and gay identity politics and feminist analysis/organization against oppression. The subject continues to occupy academics and others concerned with issues of representation and self-representation, signified by acts of naming, of "coming out," in areas of practice that engage academics through pedagogy and research, and for some, social and political change. That the issue of naming even figured in the process of entitling this text, "one [the editors] had thought might avoid the thickets of identity-specification on the book jacket, at least" raises the question of their own dis/comfort with identifying themselves as queer. Their working title, Sexualities and Social Action: Inside the Academy and Out was abandoned when their editor instructed them, in a supportive way, to "get lesbian, gay, and queer studies into your title" (p. x).
Ristock and Taylor's intention for this text is to be "part of a highly contested social movement that aims to change the way people think about sexuality and sexually categorized identities" (p. x). It is also about the sometimes difficult, often self-reflective and unexpected journeys academics take as they struggle with issues of representation (and self-representation), and the attendant theoretical, political, social and personal implications -- risky terrain. The work of this text follows on previous contributions by Canadians, as noted in the preface, to social, cultural and historical studies of the production and regulation of sexuality. The editors dedicate this text to "everyone struggling to create queer spaces" or "to queer the space" in the heteronormative teaching locations of university and scholarly life. That statement barely suggests the debt such scholarship owes to the unprecedented challenges, bravely undertaken in unfriendly university classrooms here and elsewhere, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, by lesbian, gay, and feminist scholars struggling to make a safe space possible for queer studies.
This text should be read in context with contributions by various Canadian scholars: for example, Linda Briskin's work on feminist, and more recently queer, pedagogy, particularly her 1990 CRIAW Feminist Perspectives document Feminist Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning Liberation; Didi Khayatt's portrayal of the homophobia faced by elementary and secondary educators in Lesbian Teachers: An Invisible Presence (1992); the numerous allusions James Miller makes in Fluid Exchanges: Artists, and Critics in the AIDS Crisis (1992) to the struggles and triumphs of students participating in the groundbreaking program "Aids and the Arts" he began at the University of Western Ontario in 1988; the significant May 1993 international gathering of Queer academics, cultural practitioners and activists at the University of Toronto for the Queer Sites Conference organized by Julia Creet and Fadi Abou-Rihan; and RFR/DRF's own special issue of "Passionate Ethics/Une ethique passionnee" (vol. 25, nos. 3+4 ), a collection of personal and critical responses to the work of Kathleen Martindale, edited by Barbara Godard and Pamela McCallum, which takes up Martindale's struggle with questions about the future of queer pedagogy and the significance of deconstructing heteronormativity and in which contributors refer to her studies of heterosexism in the classroom and her effort to integrate lesbian and women's studies using feminist political strategies informed by postmodernist theories. …